Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast: Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

This episode we're joined by our Lead Architect, Head of Systems Engineering and CEO to talk about application migration to the cloud from their highly-experienced perspectives. From managing a great discovery conversation to the skills, security and management concerns businesses face before, during and afterwards.

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Episode transcript:

Intro (00:05):

Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive podcast, Spill the IT. Each episode we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Graham (00:26):

Welcome back everybody to the Fasthosts ProActive podcast. My name's Graham, and I'm going to be your host again for today for this week's podcast. Today I have with me Mark O'Hare.

Mark (00:36):


Graham (00:37):

Hi, who's the lead architect here at Fasthosts ProActive. Good morning, Mark.

Mark (00:42):


Graham (00:43):

Like Terry last week, do I assume this is your first ever podcast or-

Mark (00:47):

It is.

Graham (00:47):

... do you have a history doing it?

Mark (00:48):

No, no, this is my first podcast.

Graham (00:51):

Fantastic. All right. Well, we might get you hooked on it.

Mark (00:55):

Maybe, maybe.

Graham (00:57):

But you are going to do a far better job of telling everybody who's listening on this particular podcast who you are, a bit about yourself and your background. Why don't you share a little bit of that, and try to keep it to a minute or so.

Mark (01:06):

Okay, okay. I'll try and keep it short. So I'm the lead architect for Fasthosts development and I work within the development department. I kind of provide guidance on the overall application architectures that we have. I'm kind of a champion for non-functional requirements where we try to make sure that the applications that we build are built to a good standard, they're very maintainable, they have good operations, that kind of thing. So that's what I do. I've been with Fasthosts for nearly 10 years, so in November it'll be 10 years.

Graham (01:44):

Fantastic. I'm sure you've got some great war stories to share. We may hear some of those a little bit later with me today also as well, I have Simon Yeoman who's the CEO here at Fasthosts and Fasthosts ProActive. Good morning, Simon.

Simon (01:56):

Morning, great to be here.

Graham (01:57):

Yeah, welcome to your first podcast with us.

Simon (01:59):

Thank you.

Graham (02:00):

And also I have Terry Hurcombe, who's head of systems engineering. Morning Terry.

Terry (02:04):

Hi. Good morning. Nice to meet you.

Graham (02:05):

Yeah, nice to meet you too. So what are we going to talk about this week I hear you say? Well, today we're going to talk about migration and a subject I know that everybody worries about. But Mark is here today to share some of those war stories that we just spoke about and what to look out for when considering implementation and implementation of a migration of applications and data into the cloud. So Mark, take us through the list. What's the number one concern when starting a migration project?

Mark (02:35):

Well, I mean obviously people are looking for success out of a migration. So the important thing is to be clear about what it is you're looking to achieve when you're migrating. So obviously a business is going to move into the cloud, they're looking to solve some kind of problem or they're trying to make some improvements in making that migration. So you want to be clear about whether it's you're looking for operational considerations, say like you've got 24/7 that you can't do yourself and you're looking to try and get that. Or you want more resilience in the applications you're building or capacity. But the important thing is to try and keep that migration as simple as you can. Don't try and change everything about your existing systems when you make that migration. So yeah, that's pretty much what I would say is the major concern.

Graham (03:31):

Is the major concern.

Mark (03:32):


Graham (03:33):

So let me just ask you a question a bit. Does complexity of migration really get in the way? So do people walk away from it or they stand off from it and they go, "Actually no, we're going to leave it for another year because we know it's really complicated." So that simplicity you talk about, is that something you really have to assure people about?

Mark (03:53):

Yeah, well the thing to do is be methodical in the way that you approach a problem. We have methodologies that we follow when we do work and approach the way that we look at an application. And that is what you would apply when you are looking at the requirements for what a customer application needs and how that is going to migrate into the cloud. So you don't try and miss out any of those steps and you go through it in a logical kind of way and that will help.

Graham (04:32):

Simon, obviously you've been here from the very beginning and migration has become a very hot topic. What do you see as the sort of number one consideration?

Simon (04:41):

So we've done many migrations in various platforms, that's what we do here. We sort manage various platforms on behalf of our clients and our customers. For Fasthosts, we have a variety of clients with a variety of needs and often the difficult bit for us is balancing those different needs. Some people might be very big in North America and others might be very big in Asia and sometimes that managing customers with very different needs can be very difficult. So I think the thing to bear in mind is understand the situation, take all the complexity out of a situation wherever possible and make the transition as soon as possible.


I think sometimes, Mark referred to it's very good to be clear on the benefits and sometimes those benefits aren't always clear and it might not always be your core competency. Consolidation, sometimes it depends on the nature of the business can get in the way of your core thing that you want to build the business or grow the business. And therefore the premise that Mark used of making it as uncluttered and un-complex as possible is something that we should all think about.


We have got a lot of experience in it and we've also got a lot of learnings in it as well. It's never always straightforward and therefore I would always encourage everybody to make sure they've got a very thorough plan. And that plan needs to be thought out through multiple stakeholders with multiple perspectives. There's often a very sort of technical view of this and we need to move to this type of platform with this type of setup. And then you've got the customer perspective. If you've got an end client or an end customer, what's their perspective of this move? And then a CFO will be worried about the speed of the migration and realising the benefits as soon as possible. It's around getting the right balance of all of those things.

Graham (06:38):

Yeah, can I understand. I understand. And as you rightfully said, everyone you talk to is almost different. Every migration is different. So if we move on, if we talk about cloud platform assessment, who's in charge of that? Do you go in there? Is that what your job is as a business assessing that cloud platform or is it in combination with the client as well? Because obviously they come at it with a lot of information and a lot of knowledge. How does that work?

Mark (07:03):

Well, I mean obviously we have access to sort of cloud infrastructure that we run ourselves as well, but it depends on what the client is actually looking for. If they were looking for hybrid cloud, they might need an additional cloud provider in there as well. But I mean I think the important thing is when you're going to assess which platform you want to go for, you have to look at your own skillset and then you need to pick an organisation that's going to help you fill those gaps that you don't have. So you're probably coming to an organisation because you don't have all the skills for going into the cloud yourself and therefore you're looking to fill that gap. And so when you're looking at different providers and assessing them, you want to make sure that they're at the right kind of level that they're going to be able to work with you as an organisation.

Graham (08:09):

And how easy is that? I mean, when you are talking to clients and you're saying, well actually you've got to push them down a certain track because you see what's the right thing for them. Is that pretty easy with customers or do you get a bit of resistance there? How difficult is that?

Simon (08:23):

A lot of it, a lot of the skill and expertise is in that discovery phase and it's really important. Successful migration is dependent on a good discovery phase. And in Fasthosts ProActive, we've got some really good pre-sales engineers. And often, depending on the complexity of a solution, they'll be able to go through a discovery phase. It's really important that we get the right input from the client and that might be different perspectives from the client. But also if it's very complex, our pre-sales will come and involve people like Mark or Terry and they'll be helping us out with that. And we run a wide range of migrations and we are able to pull in that resource. But it's really important that we get the right information from the client in that discovery phase to make the ultimate migration a success.

Graham (09:07):

Yeah, I'll bring in Terry on that one then. So Terry, what do you see in that whole process of that platform assessment and getting involved in the implementation? Where are the complexities from your side?

Terry (09:19):

I talk from a slightly different perspective. I mean, we've done many migrations of internal workloads. And yeah, there's a lot of time spent individually with each tenant looking at their use cases. Every tenant uses the platform slightly differently. There are complexities in the kind of network connectivities some of these tenants need, the types of applications they're running. My expertise is around the Kubernetes area and we like to look at, well, how can we make that process easier for that tenant? Kubernetes has an operator framework, so if you need to deploy, I don't know, maybe a Redis Cluster, we can look at operators to put into the clusters to help tenants spin up the Redis Cluster without really needing to know Redis inside out.

Graham (10:00):

Yeah, interesting actually, because we've got you on a separate podcast to talk about Kubernetes. But there was a stat I saw here and it says 65% of businesses say that they operate in a multi-cloud environment. How does this affect migration was the question. So is multi-cloud bringing a level of complexity to Kubernetes coming to that at all? I don't know. Is that adding another sort of realm of complexity with that migration because you have so many other things to interact with and take into consideration?

Mark (10:32):

I mean, one of the nice things about Kubernetes is it allows you to describe your entire suite of components that work together. And so for instance, we use it quite heavily internally where we need to make applications geo-redundant like I have to operate in multiple sort of data centres around the world. And that allows us to describe something, a whole set of different things once and then be able to redeploy those into other data centres rather than all that being handcrafted. So it kind of makes all of that work that you've put into building this set of components that work together for your applications sort of transportable quite easily into other scenarios. And that's where the benefit that people find with multi-cloud, they can describe that set of applications. If they can provide another provider that has also Kubernetes, then they can redefine, describe that application into that space.

Simon (11:42):

I think some of the other complexity of course when you're talking about hybrid cloud from the customer's perspective is managing the infrastructure in each individual cloud. I mean obviously there are management interfaces that you could use for this, which essentially are just integrated with the APIs of the public cloud providers. So I think there's some consideration there in how the customer wants to manage instances may that VM instances, container instances across multiple clouds. There are products out there such as Cloud Vault Scaler, Right Scale, and they're designed to do just that kind of thing. And of course some of the public cloud offerings can give you multi-cloud management interfaces straight out of the box.

Graham (12:20):

So a subject would you say is becoming more and more important as part of that initial implementation to reassure customers there's not a problem with multi-cloud or the reason for going multi-cloud?

Simon (12:31):

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Graham (12:33):

So let's talk about security then because obviously you understand the security of your processes and set up yourselves. What gets in the way in migration with security? And we talk about multi-cloud, is that getting in the way with other providers and you having to assure customers about that? Does that stop people? Or are people fearful in that migration process with obviously the protocols around security?

Simon (12:56):

I think in a lot of cases, if you're talking about a tenant that's moving from on-prem to public cloud and hybrid cloud, network infrastructure looks very, very different in the cloud. Obviously a lot of the cloud players have big robust security services, but there's a learning curve there and it's not what your traditional network engineer perhaps is used to. So I think yeah, there's some skilling up to do before you can even press the button on those kinds of things.

Graham (13:22):

Mark, what do you see?

Mark (13:24):

I think often what's needed is, like I said, a methodical approach to the way you're going to deal with security in the cloud as well. And we use a technique called threat modelling where you look at a system, you identify all the kind of boundaries where you have different responsibilities and levels of authentication around that system and you try and analyse it in a logical way. So you look for techniques like for where people might be trying to spoof or they tamper with information or they try to give you a denial of service.


And what you do is you look to make sure you put all the right kind of mitigation in place. So it's like with anything, as long as you spend the time to analyse things properly, you have a methodical way that you've run through it. You can end up operating in the cloud and being secure. But if you just bung things up in the cloud, it's obviously from on-prem as Terry rightly says, the networking situation is very different when things are public.

Graham (14:31):

Yeah, sure.

Mark (14:31):

You need to make sure you've put those right layers of protection in there. So yeah, definitely, it's an important one and people need to consider that when they're migrating.

Graham (14:44):

And come over to you, Simon, do you see it from your perspective, is this going to get harder, easier? Where do we think the subject of security is in migration?

Simon (14:52):

I think it's increasingly complex and potential clients are increasingly conscious of it so it becomes more and more important and that's where we can lend our expertise. Terry and Mark are lending their expertise to this podcast, but that's something that we do for our clients on a regular basis. We've got 25 years this year of experience in this area and it's something that our clients are increasingly conscious of. And it's a complex world now.

Graham (15:23):

Yeah, it's a big subject.

Simon (15:23):

And therefore we can provide some reassurance in that area. And it's something that's very important to clients and we need to make sure that we're covering off of them.

Graham (15:33):

Yeah, good. So one of the things I wanted to ask is, so what are some of the applications or some of the software that tends to play up in migration? Have you got a sort of a top 10 and things that you go, actually before we do this, let's check this, this, this, and this? What needs to be looked out for?

Mark (15:49):

Yeah, I mean the thing is you look for the complex areas in the system that you've migrated. So for instance, you might have some components that require very high performance and they might be quite distributed. So that obviously creates quite a challenge because you might have latency concerns between components. You might have a system that has a lot of different kind of roles and privileges of the kinds of people that are going to use that system. And you need to make sure that you haven't broken any of that kind of permission system when you migrate it. So it could be that you're handling very sensitive information and you definitely can't be having any form of leakage of that information out. So there's many different factors that you would work down. But it's often like the complex areas of the system, whether it's performance or complex security requirements, those kinds of things.

Graham (16:53):

And what about budget? In general with customers, do you feel that they put enough budget or a certain amount of budget in relation to the subject of migration? Do they really get that? Or do you get caught out time and time again because there's so much work that sort of goes into it?

Terry (17:11):

I think it varies by client and often a lot of these topics are fairly new. And then the clients where they're more traditional, more experienced clients with more experienced decision makers and maybe not as sort of IT aware or IT conscious, that there's a certain amount of education that we need to help our point of contact in the organisation with. But it varies by client. I think some of our clients are very conscious of it and very switched on to it. Others that are not as IT savvy, there's some education that needs to be had. And we can help with that, but I think it does vary by client and probably varies by industry as well. We work with a lot of software companies and they tend to be very savvy in this area. When we work with somebody from a more traditional vertical, than there's a bit more education that needs to take place.

Graham (18:04):

Yeah, fascinating. So Mark, what have I missed? Is there anything else we need to be talking about this morning in relation to migration?

Mark (18:13):

No. Obviously when you actually go through the migration, it is really important that you get a clear plan of that migration as well. So you kind of have worked through all the steps that are going to happen. Because obviously by its nature, a migration involves at one point your existing system is going to get switched off and you're going to move over to a new system. So you need to put all the right steps in place to make sure you're really confident with the new system that is going to be switched on. You do all your right kind of due diligence beforehand, before switching over moving IPs, domains, all that kind of thing over. And that's all agreed and understood and you work through that schedule in a methodical manner.

Simon (18:58):

And I think, sorry to just interject there. I think also having a backout plan as well, right? Because not all 100% of the time things don't always go a 100% right. So being able to switch it back quickly if you've picked up on a critical issue is also key.


And just touching on the security front, again, I mean we could do many podcasts just on the security subject alone. Migration is only the start of that journey. It is a constant cat and mouse battle with the bad actors. And for us, a lot of that internally comes down to process, procedure, and also regular auditing. How many times can you tell the story of PI data going in a bucket that was once secure that suddenly miraculously has become publicly accessible. So yeah, regular auditing, try and keep on top of things and pick up issues early.

Graham (19:43):

Yeah, fascinating. Well, it certainly sounds like you guys have got all the experience and all the knowledge and it's been great for you to hop on today. Mark, thank you for your time. Terry, thanks for being here and yourself as well, Simon. And for everybody out there, keep listening and we will be back very soon. Have a good week. Goodbye.

Outro (20:01):

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcast or visit proactive.fasthosts.co.uk for more info. See you next time.

Orlaith Palmer

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